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 In the year 2000, Peter Jennings hosted an ABC prime-time television special titled, The Search for Jesus , in which Jennings and certain "scholars" claim that there are different and contradicting Gospel accounts of Jesus' life. (Gospel means "good news" and there are four in the Bible - Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) These scholars, whom Jennings referenced, are a group known as the Jesus Seminar and they happen to approach the Gospels with an extremely liberal perspective.  The exploitation of discrepancies and contradictions is so slanted that when one actually takes the time to investigate and examine the Gospel accounts seriously, the apparent contradictions are just that - apparent! 

One of the most popular alleged contradictions is the account of the empty tomb and the number of female discoverers. Here are the 4 accounts:

1. In Matthew 28:1 , the author records "Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to the tomb."

2. Mark records in his book that "Mary Magdalene, Mary the Mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they may go to anoint Jesus' body." ( Mark 16:1 )

3. Luke claims "It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the Mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles." ( Luke 24:10 )

4. Finally John mentions "Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance." ( John 20:1 ) 

What one realizes upon closer inspection is that these gospel accounts actually complement one another rather than contradict. These four different authors record the empty tomb facts from their particular perspectives. John mentions Mary Magdalene because obviously she was the key person (perhaps because of her prominence, either during or after Jesus' earthly ministry) who is also included in the other three accounts.  If he, however, had said "only Mary Magdalene went to the tomb ...." then we would have a true contradiction since Matthew claims at least two were present. The writers were not obligated to mention every person present. 

Another alleged popular discrepancy in the Gospels concerns the number of angels at Jesus' tomb.

Matthew 28:2 and Mark 16:5 record one but Luke 24:4 and John 20:12 speak of two . The apparent contradiction can be resolved as follows:

The one angel described by Matthew is recorded before the women arrive during the earthquake sitting on the stone.

Mark and Luke, however, were describing the women's first sight of the angels inside the tomb.  John is actually recording the number of angels during the second visit to the tomb (see John 20:2-10 ) after "the disciples went back to their homes".  Mark mentions one angel (vs. Luke's two) which he evidently thought was more prominent. We call this selective reporting. If, however, Mark had said only one angel was present, we would have an obvious contradiction from Luke's record. The particular author is reporting what he believes is important from his perspective. In addition, where there are two angels there has to be at least one. 

This happens in other accounts as well, such as when Mark 5:1-20 and Luke 8:26-27 mention "a" demon-possessed man who met Jesus near Gerasenes, but Matthew mentions two ( Matthew 8:28 ). The authors are selectively reporting what they believe to be important.  In this case, Mark and Luke were not so concerned about the number as they were about the power Jesus had over the demon to prove he was God in the flesh. 

What one finally realizes after examining the Gospel accounts is that they are complementary rather than contradictive . In fact, the minor differences we do see actually make the historical account that much more believable. If they had all been written exactly the same, rather than from the different and unique perspectives by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, one could actually make a case for collusion!

Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught. ~ Luke 1:1-4 

See also:

The Gospel Message